The Dillards “Wheatstraw Suite”

Wheatstraw Suite

The Dillards are a pioneering bluegrass group that got started releasing tight as hell traditional records and performing as the hillbilly band on The Andy Griffith Show during the early 60s. Their legacy has been influence to the best in bluegrass, newgrass, country and folk rock and one of their most significant contributions is kinda the Sweetheart of bluegrass, Wheatstraw Suite.

It may not be as revered or rugged as Sweetheart of the Rodeo, having a cleaner sound akin to that of the Beau Brummel’s country rock work, but it oughta’ be every bit as influential. While still present are the exquisite and precise harmonies and banjo from Doug Dillard,  added to the mix we hear orchestral parts, electric instruments and drums. These are big no-no’s in the world of trad bluegrass but the hallmarks of pop rock, but there you have it: combine this set-up with a strong set of tunes from multiple disciplines and stir for breakthrough classic status.

“Nobody Knows” is an instant winner and fell me in love with this record right away with that intricately produced Bradley’s Barn sound. There are a few silly fun numbers in “Hey Boys,” “The Biggest Whatever,” and the cowboy tune “Single Saddle.” These are the tunes that turn people off to this record, but they are good enough to be included I believe. You’ll be happy you stayed for the delicate and different “Lemon Chimes” and great poetic country song “She Sang Hymns Out Of Tune.” “Don’t You Cry” and “Bending The Strings” seriously cook. And great choices in covers from Tim Hardin and the Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face.”

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“I’ve Just Seen A Face”

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  • I always liked it when the hillbillys on Andy Griffith came to town and they jammed a little bit. Was not aware they were a “real” group!. Good stuff and nice post!
    Great blog

  • Brendan

    I guess I should have mentioned they were known as The Darlings on the show. Great band name. Here’s them singing “Dooley”:

  • nan

    Super clip of a real classic show… I too, always thought these guys might just be actors. But I looked at their hands and realized, they are picking by golly…Super talented indeed. Looked them up and was greatly surprised to see that they had been a “real band”.

    Loved this site and the info and hope others discover this fun fact too! Also their cover of the Beatle’s song, I’ve just seen a face is fantastic….check out the clip and enjoy!

  • Martha Holmes

    I’d love to find the song and/or lyrics to the song SINGLE SADDLE which I remember from my childhood in about 1950. Pls reply to

  • kd in FL

    Absolutely the best bluegrass in the world. But i’m biased maybe since they’re from my little home town of Salem, MO. Another of the great unsung (pun intended) musical heroes of the 60’s and 70’s. Incredible talent, really.
    One of my very favorite cuts (and I have many) is from their Homecoming Album, “I’ll settle down and let the river roll on”. It is genius for Doug to start out this song with a rock/soul flavor like Clapton or J. Beck on an electric guitar and then to switch mid-way thru the song to his kick-ass, unmatchable banjo picking to finish it out in pure, traditional bluegrass. Genius I tell you. :)

  • Bill Whitaker

    By the Wheatstraw Suite LP founding banjoist Doug Dillard had departed, soon to form Dillard & Clark with Gene Clark. The banjo on this album was by Doug’s replacement, Herb Pedersen, who brought an even tighter harmony sound to the group.

  • Len Liechti

    Wheatstraw Suite is absolutely exquisite folk-bluegrass, so tight and pretty it hurts, and yet with a dash of humour so rare in virtuoso acoustic music. I used to think the Band and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band were tight, but you couldn’t get a fagpaper between these boys. I bought this as part of Elektra’s threefer with Pickin’ And Fiddlin’ (with Byron Berline) and Copperfields, which collects the three Electra albums 1965-1970 and chronicles their voyage from absolute trad bluegrass to soft country rock via the aforesaid folk-bluegrass. Not a duff track from start to finish and great value too.

  • Nancy D

    I too was very thrilled to learn that these amazing and funny musicans were a the real thing…. what talented men….I hope that they know how much people really still appreciate how wonderful they were…… always made me smile and forget my troubles!

  • Anonymous

    I saw The Dillards live at least twice in Washington, DC back in the late ’60’s/early ’70’s. They are as tight as you can imagine.

  • Jimbo

    I just bought ‘Wheatstraw Suite’ from a stack of records in the back of a used furniture shop. Cover is in near new shape, disc looks like it’s never been played. ( EKS – 74035 ) Side one plays clear, without a single pop or hiss. Side two has the correct decal on the record, but the music is someone else entirely. I tracked it down to side 2 of Judy Collins’ “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” Bizzare. Never seen that before. Anyone else ever find that before?

  • Nancy

    Wow that is very weird… wonder if it is a printing mistake from way back when. It would be interesting to know if you have a valuable item there!

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